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Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better by Eric Reiss

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Chapter Nine Consistent

On any list of popular board games, Monopoly usually ranks close to the top. Even though the names of the individual property names may change in different versions, the basic layout of the board is pretty much the same, the relative values of individual properties remains the same, and the printed rules are also amazingly consistent, no matter who manufactured your particular set.

Consistency is one of the keys to achieving elegance and clarity in functional design. Remember, we’re dealing with the psychological aspects of something—that it does what we expect it to do. Just as we expect our fellow Monopoly players to stick to the agreed rules (including any special “house rules” determined before the start of play). Only in reality TV shows do we find it amusing to see the rules suddenly change—to the despair of the celebrity wannabes involved.

Consistency makes our lives simpler by making the world around us a little easier to understand.

A caveat

The brilliant interface designer (and Apple Employee #66), Bruce Tognazzini once wrote, “Inconsistency: It is just important to be visually inconsistent when things must act differently as it is to be visually consistent when things act the same.”

Please keep this important point in mind as you read this chapter.

Seduced by synonyms

Several words often mean the same thing—these are called synonyms in English. For example, car, auto, automobile, and vehicle all mean more or less the same thing. Synonyms are ...

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